Stop criminalising peaceful assemblies

Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)SUA | .

SUARAM strongly condemns the Inspector-General Police (IGP) Khalid Abu Bakar's decision in invoking Section 9 (5) of the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 and Section 143 of the Penal Code in effecting the arbitrary arrest of,  PKR Youth Leader Saifullah Zulkifli, Seri Setia Assemblyman Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad and PKR's Jingga 13 head coordinator Fariz Musa. We further express our strong objection towards the unreasonable crackdown against the organisers of last Saturday's #KitaLawan rally in Kuala Lumpur as it violates our very constitutional right to freedom of peaceful assembly.

The Court of Appeal has in April 2014 ruled that it is unconstitutional to criminalise public assembly in breach of the 10-day notice required under Section 9(5) of the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012. It is unattainable that the Deputy Inspector-General of Police (DIGP) Noor Rashid Ibrahim would label the "KitaLawan rally as illegal for failure to submit a formal notice. The same law was then use to arrest Nik Nazmi on 8 March 2015. Until the decision by Court of Appeal is overturned by Federal Court, unconstitutionality of Section 9(5) of the PAA remains good law and ought to be followed by everyone, police including. The police by blatantly ignoring a provision that has been outlawed by the Court of Appeal, is committing contempt of court and has abused the statutory power entrusted upon them as enforcers of the rules and law of the land.

The 7 March 2015 rally was well attended by about 10,000 Malaysians who shared the same sentiments over the disheartening judiciary verdict against Anwar's Sodomy II appeal and the degrading human rights and economic situation in Malaysia. It was a peaceful assembly and an expression of the people's dissatisfaction towards the ruling coalition that has systematically suppressed the people and violated all fundamental principles in a democracy.

The use of Section 143 of the Penal Code against Saifullah Zulkifli, Nik Nazmi and Fariz Musa is again an illustration of police harassment against citizens who courageously challenged the establishment and oppressive regime. Section 143 applies to violent assemblies with criminal elements. Any sane person who had participated in the rally or had observed the process, would reasonably conclude that it was a peaceful assembly joined by passionate Malaysians seeking for a better country. Then why is the police, invoking Section 143 to arrest and criminalise organisers of #KitaLawan rally when no actual harm, violence or criminal offence caused or committed?

The IGP had on 9 March 2015 announced that the organisers of the rally will be arrested and investigated. It is extremely worrying that the police has systematically clamped down on those who criticised Federal Court's decision on Anwar's Sodomy II appeal, most notably with the use of the Sedition Act. SUARAM has recorded 7 individuals hauled up over their expression on the court decision. And just last month, Adam Adli, Fariz Musa and Nik Nazmi were arrested under Section 143 of the Penal Code for a separate #KitaLawan assembly held on 21 February 2015 at Sogo KL.

The unrelenting clamp down by police has had a chilling effect on all Malaysians. The police has demonstrated how they can blatantly disregard our rights under the Federal Constitution and the very fundamental principle of rule of law to not arbitrarily criminalise anyone - that application of law must be fair and predictable. The rulers of this country must remember that freedom of speech and freedom of assembly are the basic pillars of a democracy and should be upheld by a government that is sincere about promoting accountability and improvement.

SUARAM  urges the police to cease all forms of harassment against Saifullah Zulkifli, Nik Nazmi, Fariz Musa and other #KitaLawan rally organisers under the Peaceful Assembly Act and Section 143 of the Penal Code. We further urge the police to respect our rights to freedom of expression and assembly and to stop harassing those who seek reform for this country.

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